About Carley St. Clair: Carley St. Clair works as a Communications Strategist at DaVita Kidney Care in Denver, Colorado. She started with DaVita in 2016 as a Communications Coordinator, handling internal communications, social media, marketing automation, and program development and management. Prior to joining the company, Ms. St. Clair worked for Global Greengrants Fund as a Digital Media Specialist. Her background in communications also includes a five-month internship with The Woman’s Foundation of Colorado.
Ms. St. Clair attended the University of Michigan for her undergrad, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2011. In 2016, she completed her master’s degree through the Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication program at the University of Denver.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Carley St. Clair] I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2011 with a BA in Political Science. I then went to Washington D.C. where I worked for an applied social science research firm. This work included understanding how to influence populations at a grand scale, which sparked my interest in communications.
After two years of working in D.C., I was ready to pursue my graduate degree in communications. After significant research, I chose to enroll at the University of Denver. I was particularly interested in the program’s small cohort size and proximity to a booming city. Since earning my degree, I have worked at DaVita, a Fortune 200 healthcare company headquartered in Denver, as a communications strategist.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication program at the University of Denver (DU)?
[Carley St. Clair] I always knew that I wanted to get a graduate degree. As a Political Science major, everyone I talked to encouraged me to go to law school. Although this sounded interesting, it didn’t spark curiosity. I went to my local book store and got a book that listed all the graduate degrees offered in the US. I went page by page crossing out the programs that didn’t resonate with me and flagging the ones that did. I researched public communication and couldn’t stop thinking about it once I learned more about it.
When considering my graduate program, I wanted a skill set that I could apply across industries and could grow with me throughout my career. When I was assessing programs, I also wanted a small program where I could develop strong relationships with my professors and fellow students. I ultimately decided to enroll at the University of Denver because of its thoughtful approach to instill a strategic approach to communications, small program size and commitment to public service.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is DU’s program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Carley St. Clair] The University of Denver’s communications program is designed to build quarter over quarter. The program started with theoretical and philosophical approaches to communications and then focused on applying these approaches through classes such as health communications and developing and executing a brand. Foundational to each of these classes was a focus on the public good: How can we use these concepts to improve the communities we live in?
In the second quarter of school, we learned a framework to use when we approach any communications work. I use this framework each time I start a new project at work. This simple and thoughtful approach to communications can be used across industries leading to intelligently designed strategies to achieve the determined goal. I am so thankful to have a proven approach to use in my work.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your internship? What kind of role did you take on, and with what organization? What were some of the key learning outcomes? Did you have to complete a paper or other project-based deliverable as part of your internship experience?
[Carley St. Clair] I completed an internship at the Women’s Foundation of Colorado where I supported the communications team. In this role, I supported a two-woman team that focused on external media, donor relations and digital media. I learned how important it is to have a consistent message across multiple different platforms, as this allows for messages to be reinforced. Additionally, this helps a team be really consistent in their work.
This internship made real the strategic approach that I was learning in school. It provided me an opportunity to see how I can conduct research, build consensus on goals and measure tactics in the real world. This was an extremely valuable experience for me. I learned how to be agile and respond to unpredicted situations while driving to our overall goals.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from DU’s Media and Public Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Carley St. Clair] I believe the strategic approach that the program taught me is the most helpful tool that I learned in my time at DU. Each individual course, from branding and media law to communication theory and community practicum, gave me an opportunity to apply this strategic approach. Moreover, these courses gave me additional detail and resources to draw upon throughout my career. For example, I am better able to answer questions that arise in my work due to the research methods I learned at DU. Rather than specific facts and figures, this program taught me how to approach problems thoughtfully and strategically to achieve the desired goal.
I also think the network that I built at DU has been a powerful driver in my career. I have drawn upon the alumni network to find internships and even my current position! My internship at the Women’s Foundation of Colorado led to my involvement in their Empowerment Council which is a network of young women interested in philanthropy. It is the combination of my network and strategic approach that makes me sure I made the right choice in my graduate program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the University of Denver’s MA in Media and Public Communication program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at DU or another university?
[Carley St. Clair] I would recommend to any student considering a communications program to identify a program that focuses on what is important to them. I was interested in the public good focus and giving back to communities around me. I used this as a guiding light when assessing programs.
I would also recommend finding a program that has the right student-teacher ratio for that student. I went to a big school for my undergraduate degree so I was interested in a small program. Finally, I recommend seeking opportunities outside of school. From internships to volunteer opportunities and jobs, identify and engage in opportunities that will give you experience while in school.
Thank you, Ms. St. Clair, for your excellent insights on the University of Denver’s MA in Media and Public Communication program!